6.08.2011

"i told cinnamon the story of the submarine and the zoo when he was little--about what i had seen from the deck of the transport ship in august of 1945 and how the japanese soldiers shot the animals in my father's zoo all the while an american submarine was training its cannon on us and preparing to sink our ship.  i had kept that story to myself for a very long time and never told it to anyone.  i had wandered in silence through the gloomy labyrinth that spread out between illusion and truth.  when cinnamon was born, though, it occurred to me that he was the only one i could tell my story to.  and so, even before he could understand words, i began telling it to him over and over again, in a near whisper, telling him everything i could remember, and as i spoke, the scenes would come alive to me, in vivid colors, as if i had pried off a lid and let them out.

"as he began to understand the language, cinnamon asked me to tell him the story again and again.  i must have told it to him a hundred, two hundred, five hundred times, but not just repeating the same thing every time.  whenever i told it to him, cinnamon would ask me to tell him some other little story contained in the main story.  he wanted to know about a different branch of the same tree.  i would follow the branch he asked for and tell him that part of the story.  and so the story grew and grew.

"in this way, the two of us went on to create our own interlocking system of myths.  do you see what i mean?  we would get carried away telling each other the story every day.  we would talk for hours about the names of the animals in the zoo, about the sheen of their fur or the color of their eyes, about the different smells that hung in the air, about the names and faces of the soldiers, about their birth and childhood, about their rifles and the weight of their ammunition, about the fears they felt and their thirst, about the shapes of clouds floating in the sky....

"i could see all the colors and shapes with perfect clarity as i told the story to cinnamon, and i was able to put what i saw into words--the exact words i needed--and convey them all to him.  there was no end to any of this.  there were always more details that could be filled in, and the story kept growing deeper and deeper and deeper and bigger and bigger."

nutmeg smiled as she spoke of those days long ago.  i had never seen such a natural smile on her face before.

"but then one day it ended," she said.  "cinnamon stopped sharing stories with me that february morning when he stopped talking."

nutmeg paused to light a cigarette.

"i know now what happened.  his words were lost in the labyrinth, swallowed up by the world of the stories.  something that came out of those stories snatched his tongue away.  and a few years later, the same thing killed my husband."

haruki murakami in the wind-up bird chronicle